The Light of Miracles

Of all the natural phenomenas in the world, nothing compares to the beautiful light show of the Aurora Borealis. More commonly known as the northern lights, this phenomenon describes the dance of colour in the sky. This phenomenon, is found in both the northern and southern hemispheres and are truly awe inspiring. The southern lights are called “Aurora Australis”

Right since my childhood I am fascinated by the term miracle. No one has seen it & no one has touched it. But it is something that someone has experienced. Whenever I wonder how a miracle will look like, I have always imagined these spectacular lights in front of me. Earlier I didn’t know the scientific or logical reason for it. But one thing is sure, a miracle for me will look exactly like this.

Historically, the lights have been described as a “Dance of Spirits” or a “Sign of God”. However, there is a simple, logical, natural and a scientific reason behind this wonder.
To see the northern lights, you need a dark and a clear night. They are visible from late September to March anywhere from 6pm to 6am. Solar flares need to be present on the sun or there must be a solar wind; the Aurora Borealis happens when particles from the sun enter the earth’s atmosphere and collide violently with these gaseous atoms.

The scientific reason behind the process is when charged particles from the sun strike atoms in the earth’s atmosphere, they cause electrons in the atoms which move to a higher-energy state. When the electrons drop back to a lower energy state, they release a photon. This process creates the beautiful aurora.

The northern lights, covers most of Alaska, northern parts of Canada, the southern half of Greenland, Iceland, Northern Norway, Sweden and Finland.
The Aurora appear in many colors, pale green and pink being the most common. Shades of red, yellow, green, blue, and violet have also been reported. The lights appear in various forms, from patches or scattered clouds of lights creating streamers, arcs, rippling curtains or shooting rays that light up the sky with an eerie glow. Oxygen usually causes a green or brownish-red display. While Nitrogen causes a blue or red color and Helium produces blue or purple colors.

Auroras are relatively dim, and the redder lights are often at the limit of what the human retinas can pick up. Cameras, though, are often more sensitive and with a long-exposure setting, during a clear dark sky you can pick up some of these spectacular shots.

Over the centuries, many myths and legends have circulated about the northern lights. Eskimos used to believe the lights were spirits of seals, whales and caribou. The Algonquian Indians of Canada thought them to be reflections of a huge fire built by the “Great Spirit”. When the lights were red, people of the Middle Ages thought it was a signal for an impending war. However, in Ancient Europe the sight struck a fear. People believed it to have been a signal that indicated an outbreak of death and disease.

The weather in the Arctic is as notoriously unpredictable as the northern lights themselves are. It’s not unusual to have sunshine, clouds, rain, sleet, hail, snow, and high winds all in the same day. Just because you wake up to crystal clear skies that doesn’t mean those crystal clear skies will stick around until northern lights viewing time.

I am sure for most of us, experiencing the Aurora Borealis in person is on the bucket list. Most possibly right at the top. The idea of watching this spectacular natural light show in real-time is thrilling. If you are getting chance to travel, not just for time off, but for a memorable experience then you must visit this place. This visit will surely be a milestone to your travel diaries.

Tanmayi Gokhale
(Info-centre, Pune)